According to the preliminary estimate of the impact of extreme heat, more than half of the deaths are expected to be in people aged 85 and older.
In the first snapshot analysis of the human toll of record-breaking temperatures, an additional thousand people are estimated to have died during the recent three-day UK heatwave.
At least ten people drowned during the heat, which reached 40°C in some areas, but a preliminary figure for the overall number of deaths linked to the extreme weather has now been released.
According to Antonio Gasparrini of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, 948 people died in England and Wales between July 17 and 19. More than half, 495 people, are estimated to be 85 or older, constituting approximately 2% of the nation’s population.
The majority of the deaths, 844, are thought to have occurred on the two hottest days of the year, July 18 and 19. In a typical year, 791 heat-related deaths are expected in England and Wales. “So it’s higher in three days than you’d expect for the entire year.” So it’s severe, that’s severe,” Gasparrini says.
The figures are derived from a simulation of how many deaths would be expected in different parts of the country depending on how hot it gets, rather than the observed number of excess deaths during a heatwave. That official process typically takes much longer than Gasparrini’s near real-time approach.
He arrived at his conclusions, which are being considered for publication in a scientific journal, by extrapolating from earlier this month’s research. Between 2000 and 2019, that study calculated the risk of heat for various age groups in nearly 35,000 small geographical areas across England and Wales.
The estimated 948 excess deaths in just three days are the midpoint of a range of 618 to 1141 in the worst-case scenario. According to Chloe Brimicombe of the University of Reading in the United Kingdom, the expected toll from the heatwave appears to be “in line with expectations.”
Next Tuesday, preliminary figures for excess deaths during the heatwave are expected.